Goodbye 2009.

Start doing the things you think should be done, and start being what you think society should become. Do you believe in free speech? Then speak freely. Do you love the truth? Then tell it. Do you believe in an open society? Then act in the open. Do you believe in a decent and humane society? Then behave decently and humanely.
– Adam Michnik

Today I had to write the date on something and I looked up and asked the person behind the counter, “do you know what day it is?” With a smile on her face, she hesitated, unsure how to respond. My friend Chelsea quickly helped me out, “It’s December 31st.” The woman behind the counter broke out into laughter. “That only means one thing… you must have no plans for tonight,” she said.

– – – –

On her way out the door a few hours ago, my mom asked me, “Now are you staying home because you are an introvert, or you have work to do, or your friends just aren’t doing anything?” I don’t know.  My parents and siblings are out at various parties, but I am sitting here at the kitchen table eating a gluten-free chocolate chip waffle, and I could not be more content. There’s just nothing I’d rather do than sit here and write and reflect.

One word: Trust.

2009, it’s been a good year. I’ll leave the recapping to this work in progress post and sum it up with one word: Trust.

I spent much of last year putting together my journal from my time in Kenya to share with others. Under the African Sky is now done and available to order here (hardcover, softcover, PDF Version). Like the last-minute trip itself, I had no idea where the project would take me or if it would be “worth it.” Now that I’m done, I know exactly where it took me, well, at least as much as I can know.

But was it worth it? If no one buys it, and if no one contacts me about publishing it (not that I am ever expecting anyone to, heck, if someone did, I’d probably freak out), but more importantly, if no one is inspired, if no little girl decides she someday wants to help little kids, or try to love more… was it still worth it?

Yes. I trust now that creating the book has served a purpose, even if it was only to teach me about dedication, perseverance, and the importance of telling my story. Telling my story—the only one that is mine to tell—with my own voice has been a great challenge for me.

I have a soft voice. When I talk about something I deeply care about, it shakes. Unfortunately (or fortunately, I guess) this is most of the time.

But with support from friends and family and teachers, I am starting to trust that what I have to say is not only important, but world changing. In the upcoming months of 2010, I want to speak truthfully even when I’m afraid, sing praise to God even when surrounded by unbelievers, share my needs and hopes and fears, and always always always listen and tell stories.

Maybe sometimes even with words.

To do this, I’m going to have to give myself time to think, time to dream, and time to explore joy and happiness and sit with my sadness and pain. When I used to live in NYC, I had more excuses and distractions to avoid simply being or thinking. I was always doing. But on January 3rd, I’ll return to Maine where it’ll be cold, snowy, and dark, but maybe in this darkness I’ll find a place to just be.

I trust that I will.

Two words: Me too.

Two days after moving into the peace community, a two-year-old girl moved in named Nina. When she walked in, I knelt down and asked her, “My name’s Julia, will you please be my friend?” From then on although Nina referred to everyone else  simply as a two-year-old version of their own name (Christina became Tina, etc.), she called me, “My fwiend Jewia.” Now, I would even call her one of my best friends.

Nina’s learned more words since then, but my favorite has been these two: me too.

Let me give you examples of how it’s used,

Me, “I’m going to go for a walk.”
Her, “Me too! Me too! Me too!”

Me, “I gotta go to the store.”
Her, “Me too! Me too! Me too!”

Me, “I’m going to go take pictures.”
Her, “Me too! Me too! Me too!”

Me, eating ice cream,
Her, “Me too! Me too! Me too!”
(She eventually even learned to push a chair to could climb up and get silverware, and to push the chair next to me to share the ice cream with her own spoon.)

Nina is not my child, but she is one of my best friends and now I often find myself saying, “Me too! Me too! Me too!” To Nina and everyone else. The more time I spend with kids, the more I act like them. Sharing my emotions and wants freely and honestly where appropriate, and always asking questions. Gosh, I love Nina.

Packing her bag for our drive from Maine to New York.

Three words: Live with integrity.

In one of my more advanced classes this term, a favorite teacher, Karen, casually dropped the term, “intellectual problem of human ecology.” New to this school, College of the Atlantic, which is founded on the idea of Human Ecology, I had no qualms raising my hand.

“Wait,” I asked the class, “what exactly does that mean… the intellectual problem of human ecology?”

“Well, if human ecologists believe that everything is connected, and you can’t change one thing without changing everything, and if you can never learn everything, where do you begin?”

I sat back. Karen had just summed up one of my biggest questions in my life. I think I muttered out an “Oh,” and class discussion turned back to literary theory. “Wait, wait, wait,” I interjected again. The class paused and turned to me. Since she had a term for this question, maybe she also had an answer. I was hopeful, and it was worth a shot.

“Um… what do you think…”

I felt like that kid at the end of a long lecture who, when the teacher asks if there are anymore questions, jokingly says, “Yeah! What’s the meaning of life!”

“What would you say in response to that?” I ventured.

She thought for a second, “Well, I’d go back to the end of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities where he talks about the inferno, constant vigilance, and to live with integrity. Live with integrity every day—every minute, live with integrity. And,” she paused, obviously thinking, “always be open to change your idea of integrity if someone shows you a better way.”

What do I think it means to live with integrity? Before I thought about it in these terms, I had come to the conclusion that my answer to “the intellectual problem of human ecology” would be to do everything with love, and I think for me, living with integrity means just that—doing everything from that place of love.

“The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.” – Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities


My word for you will be: Believe.
Believe that my dreams will come true.
Believe in love. (“You don’t believe in love? It’s not like Santa Claus!”)
Believe in myself, my voice, and my stories.
Believe in magic.
Believe in beauty, and grace, and mercy.
Believe in others.
Believe in goodness.
Believe in God.

(Other contestants included: Grace Beauty Fearless Elegant Embrace. Believe wasn’t even one of them.)

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